What follows is my entry for last week's Blogger Idol, which I'm proud to say won the top honors from the judges.
I won't ask you to enjoy it.
She was slender, dainty, refined. The sight her filled me with calm, regret, and a sense of freedom. She was sharp, but not to sharp. She gleamed in the dark, cold but present. She hurt me, and I wanted her to. She was the four inch gravity knife I kept in my pocket.
I'd been bullied horribly as a kid. My family moved just in time for me to start middle school in a new state, and I knew from the moment I walked past the flagpole things would be worse. I roamed the halls in silence, knowing with every step how much I was hated, how far I was from fitting in. Angry stares and taunts and attacks echoed inside me, as though I were being hollowed out until I was nothing but an empty girl-shaped shell.
One day I bought a knife. Functional and feminine. For protection on my late night strolls.
But instead of walking through the darkened neighborhood I sat on my bed, staring at the wall and feeling nothing but the dull throb of old pain coursing through my limbs. It didn't make sense. There was no reason. Nothing should have hurt the way everything did.
I heard her whispering from my pocket. I squeezed her, my thumb resting on her hilt, terrified and thrilled all at once. Flick! The silver blade sped out of its handle and I bit my lip, resting it against the back of my arm. Flick!
I watched the tiny line form beads of blood, watched them connect slowly, watched them dry.
And the pain was gone. I breathed a sigh of relief and gratitude. I laughed. I slept like a baby.
By the next summer my left arm was a mass of scars. Faint white lines that showed brightly after an afternoon in the sun. The occasional cluster of scratches that could have been from one of our cats. They were never deep. They never bled for more than a minute. They liberated me, I never felt the need to hide them.
In groups I felt utterly alone until I slid my hand into my pocket and wrapped my fingers around her.
My knife helped me, I told myself, helped me cope with depression that bordered on suicidal every other day.
They were scrapes, really. She didn't want to hurt me. She was my friend.
On one of my midnight walks the police picked me up for being out past curfew. They took me to the station and made me empty my pockets.
I knew the law. I was old enough to carry a knife. My knife was small enough, wasn't spring loaded, wasn't even really sharpened.
They took her anyway. There was no question where I'd gotten the little red lines on my arm. No cat, no blackberry bushes. I didn't fight for her.
For months I didn't cut, and the pain inside me just grew. I didn't know how to let it out, how to feel it without feeling consumed by it without my friend.
I experimented with other knives. Using my childhood Swiss Army knife felt perverse, like I was polluting something beautiful. Using a kitchen knife seemed like a violation of my mother.
I found a razor blade at the bottom of my box of painting supplies, and hid it in a wooden box in my room.
I feared that blade. I never cleaned it, secretly hoping it's rusting corners would carry some horrific infection, kill me and put me out of my misery. And the razor blade cut deeper than my knife ever did, than my friend ever would.
I watched my skin part from itself, gaping at the pale, bloodless color of my own flesh, watched blood pool down my arm thinking to myself, Dear God what have I done? But I'd been cutting too long, it was too late to ask for help.
Everyone knew I was doing it to myself.
I used that razor blade four times. Six slices. And after each slice I felt no relief. I felt no weight lift from my shoulders. Only fear and emptiness.
After each cut I wept. Because it didn't hurt, nothing hurt, and all that was left was the shame and fear of knowing I could not stop.
I lay awake in bed, darting terrified glances at the ornate box on my shelf, mourning my knife. I squeezed a slender cigarette lighter in my pocket, almost the same size, pretending as hard as I could they were the same. I threw the razor blade in the trash.
But the pain and fear didn't leave. Instead I watched the six ugly scars pucker and bulge on my bicep while the countless white lines on my forearm grew ever fainter, leaving no trace my friend was ever there.
The hurt inside of me began to fade to numbness, and I refilled the wooden box. This time with sleeping pills, amphetamines, aspirin, anything I could get my hands on that could be lethal.
Each time I dropped a fistful of narcotic painkillers into the box, the weight lifted a little. The sight of the box filled me with gratitude. As I drifted to sleep, I smiled towards it.
My new friend.